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message 1: by Holli (new)

Holli This half of the month we are discussing Push by Sapphire which will be led by Julie.....

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

This book was too upsetting for me, but I'm really looking forward to reading the group's posts about it.

message 3: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
T.C., I agree the book was very upsetting. What a horrible childhood that poor girl had. At least the book was a quick read. I read it in 2 days.

Looking forward to the discussion.

message 4: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (sharon2020) I checked it out but I could not get through it. I will read over the discussion though I am interested in reading you all's thoughts.

Sorry I am not participating it was just too much for me to handle very disturbing book...

message 5: by Grace (new)

Grace (graycie) | 8 comments I stopped reading after about 35 pages. I just couldn't take anymore. Actually, just having it in my house bothered me, so I made it available for swap and mailed it out this morning. But like to rest of you, I look forward to reading other's comments.

message 6: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments I am sorry to have taken so long in getting discussion and questions is the first discussion question I have for anyone who'd like to respond...
How does this novel illustrate the cycle of abuse? How does Precious break that cycle? And what aspects of her own character enable her to do so?
Also, for those of you that could not get through the book, was there one certain instance that made you quit reading?

message 7: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Wow, I'm surprised to see so many people didn't finish this book. I did finish it, and I almost "needed" to finish it, just to see that the horror in the beginning wasn't the whole story, that Precious was able to escape the abuse. I am very glad the book was as short as it was. I would actually encourage those of you who gave up to try to finish it, to see the outcome. I think if I hadn't I would always just see Precious as a child of abuse, not as the strong survivor that she really was.

Julie, as to your questions, I think Precious' mom probably dealt with abuse herself, and allowed the abuse of her daughter, and even participated in the abuse, just to try to get attention from her boyfriend, and to fulfill her own needs. Precious was able to break that cycle by escaping with her son, and I think it is just her strength, and her will to survive, that makes her able to do this. For all that she has suffered, she is an amazingly strong young woman, who just wants a better life for herself and her children.

message 8: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Honaker (carriehonaker) | 99 comments I actually was disturbed by this book also, but i did finish it because I felt it would be cathartic to see it through until the end. I grew up in a family with a social worker mom who was an abuse survivor herself. She felt it was her job to save everybody no matter what her children saw in the process and I met many "Precious'" in my life. It was refreshing to see Precious take control of herself and want education even in the face of the adversity and struggle she faced. As a teacher, I see many students express themselves through journals and poetry and the prose of the book seemed a natural outlet for Precious. I felt pity for the mother in the novel. She seemed a victim of abuse herself, especially when the social workers would ask her about Precious' story of abuse. Precious' attitude towards her shows the evolvement of Precious' character. Her willingness to listen to her and see her issues reveal the break Precious has made in the victim cycle. She no longer accepted abuse as her fate and was able to see her mother in a clearer and more profound light that makes her cognizant of her own actions and treatment of her own son. I am curious what everyonbe thinks about the character of the brother and his ultimate run-in with Precious on the streets? What did you think of her reaction? Did his character become stereotypical and how do you think this novel increased stereotypes we have about different sects of people?

message 9: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Corkdork, I already got rid of my copy of the book, so can't look things up. Are you talking about the part in the back where the brother slept with his sister, and the mom threw the sister out because the brother was going to become a dentist? Wasn't that one of the other girls at the school (not Precious), who wrote her story in the book that the class made (that section at the back of the book). Is that the brother you are talking about? I don't remember Precious having a brother, but I could be totally forgetting something here.

message 10: by Wendy T (new)

Wendy T I finished this book last night. I did manage to get through it and thought it was a very disturbing story but one that needed to be told.

message 11: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Honaker (carriehonaker) | 99 comments Sheila wrote: "Corkdork, I already got rid of my copy of the book, so can't look things up. Are you talking about the part in the back where the brother slept with his sister, and the mom threw the sister out be..."

I actually was talking about later in the book after he has become a dentist, been sued by a young girl's parents for inappropriate touching while she was under anesthesia and Precious runs into him on the street as she is walking either to or from the alternative school.

message 12: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Was that Precious' brother? Or was that the story (and brother) of one of her classmates at the alternate school? I'm mixed up now. :o)

Anyway, I think that brother was a scum bag, and I am amazed that the mom would throw her own daughter out in support of a scumbag brother. And for him to say that his sister wanted in (or enjoyed it, not sure what his exact words were) just proves to me that he was a creepy scumbag who thought it was not only okay to molest his patients but his own sister. I'm remembering that this girl was also very strong, to have survived on her own on the street after this happened to her.

I'm not sure how this book increased stereotypes of sects of people. The story did show horrible families in a few different minorities, but I think things like this happen in all kinds of families, rich or poor, black or white, city or country, educated or not.

message 13: by Kristie (new)

Kristie (spedkristie) | 385 comments I agree that most likely the mom was a victim of abuse in the past and probably her father witnessed abuse or had it perpetrated against him. Either way, both parents played an active role in the abuse.

Precious broke the cycle by getting an education and seeing the value of an education. After being rejected by her school, she realized how bad off she was and how bad off her daughter would be if they didn't leave her parents. The only way Precious saw to get out, was to get an education by someone who understood her hardships. She eventually wanted out of her home situation, and perserverence carried her through.

message 14: by Lynne (last edited Feb 17, 2010 09:40AM) (new)

Lynne | 46 comments I cannot wait to read this book, but I am #5 on the list at the library and at 2 weeks a person.... that's at least 10 weeks till I can read it. I read too fast and too much to be able to afford to buy very many books so I use the public library. I requested this book a month ago, but some people do not respect due dates and the fact that other people are waiting to read the book they have.

message 15: by Betsy (new)

Betsy (thebeblend) | 8 comments I read this book several years ago. I can't seem to find my copy of it to refresh my memory, but some things about the book really stood out in my mind.

I, too, found it very disturbing - its supposed to be. I can see why it made some people uncomfortable, but I think that's part of its power. Poverty, abuse, teen pregnancy, alternative education programs... all of these things are controversial and difficult to talk about. I love that this book totally transcends the PC fear of talking about these issues in order to really get at this character and her experience - which is not all that rare, unfortunately.

The writing is amazing, and in my opinion, fearless. This book is beautiful, scary, and horrifying in that it creates such a believable and unsettling world surrounding these characters.

I was especially impressed (in retrospect) with the "writing samples" shown in the book when Precious is learning to read/write. Since I read this book, I've completed my MA in Teaching ESL. I now see how amazing Sapphire's version of Precious' barely literate journal writing really is.

message 16: by Sandra (new)

Sandra (sandee) | 328 comments Hi everyone, I'm new here. I read this book and it was so hard for me to get through it. I am a high school special education teacher, so it hit way too close to home. It makes me strive to be more understanding and now that the kids have it a lot harder than we would like to think they do.

I know that I cannot read the entire book with my students, but I may summarize for some of the students that have shown an interest in it.

message 17: by Nadia (new)

Nadia (bagambo) I've only just begun reading this book last night. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it, because I saw the film version of the book and it was so powerful and raw that I just felt like that was plenty of Precious to take in. However, I found the book on bookmooch and figured I'd give it a go. So far, its exactly what I expected it to be, explicit, graphic, raw and very emotional. Its disturbing to read the types of abuse that Precious has experienced and to realize that though this novel is fiction, it is so real in its descriptions and subject matter. I'm definitely going to finish the book, but I can definitely understad why some of you chose to put the book aside and not finish it. I know that sometimes all I want from a book is a break from reality and Precious most certainly is not that.

message 18: by Ella (last edited Feb 18, 2010 03:06PM) (new)

Ella (ellamc) I'm sorry to be so late to the discussion, but I logged in yesterday to see that so many people had found the book too troubling to read, and I was really confused.

Please ladies! Read past page 40 at the very least! This is where the story becomes so strong & Precious becomes such a vibrant woman in her own right.

I went back to the beginning of the book to find the turning point seems to begin around page 40 (original hardcover version) in earnest. The next events are so powerful & make Precious seem like anything but a victim. I think we see it more and more as the book goes on, but I write in the margins of books, and here's a note written on my first read a decade+ ago, and I still find it to be really true. From around page 50 or so:

"Someone who writes reviews for a living would say something like 'the triumph of the spirit,' but I'm not that person."

There's just so much WIN in this book, I don't want anyone to miss it.

I know this is long, but finally, I'm sure everyone's heard the cliché about "you have to go through the darkness to appreciate the light" -- I believe that is the case with this book. (And as clichéd as it is, also about life.)
I'll come back to answer the question in a bit when I get another break.

message 19: by Nancy (last edited Feb 20, 2010 06:21AM) (new)

Nancy | 1271 comments I'm jumping in late as well, but I really liked the book for its raw, honest look at such a sad situation. I thought the writing was brilliant as Precious evolved in her literacy. It is heartbreaking how a family can descend into such madness. I've seen enough in years of teaching. It is disturbing to witness and unfortunately happens more than people think.

Yes - it is a vicious cycle. So my question is: WHY do families continue such sick, abusive behavior? Does the lack of normalcy and depth of poverty so distort someone's vision of what is appropriate?

Sapphire makes a strong statement, in a very creative manner, on an old topic... the bouncing around between various agencies to get adequate support... the welfare system not always offering the right kind of help or for a long enough time frame to be of real empowering assistance - a temporary bandaide on the symptoms but not a long-lasting fix... those who abuse the system and make it difficult for those who really want to get out of the cycle... the need for alternative schools and teachers to reach those students who are lost in regular education. For me the most important point was the power of literacy and self expression. Great book.

message 20: by Renee (new)

Renee (reneebergeron) I started and finished the book today.

My word - PROFOUND. I was touched and disturbed. But, this is real...real in a way that most books never have the guts to be real. Her thoughts, her is like stepping right in. I felt her pain. I'm proud she kept her son, but also sad. what did she have to offer him? This is heartbreaking for sure. What is really heartbreaking is the bigger message, that for many women, this is thier existance, thier life, and they see no way out of the cycle. Did Precious really even get out? She will never escape having HIV. There is no out from that. I guess, because I wish for a "happy" ending, I wish that she could have gotten more from therapy, or that she could have known that nothing was her fault, and her feelings were normal reactions to something that should have never happened. I was also totally disgusted with her mom!

I agree with Nancy too, why do families continue these patterns of abuse? Whenever you hear/read about someone being an abuser, it is always brought up that they were abused. How do some people not develop self awareness while others do?

I think, one of my very favorite parts, is where Precious goes to the incest support group. She's sitting there, and she's looking around...seeing all the women that are so diverse. She didn't realize that what happened to her did not happen to her because she was fat or black or stupid. All those women showed her that it happens to anyone. I found that to be so powerful.

By the way, it is not Precious' brother at the end of the story. It is Rhonda's brother. the last part of the book is the story in each students words, of thier life. Rhonda was the Jamaican girl, and she ran into her brother. As far as I know, Precious had no siblings.

message 21: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Honaker (carriehonaker) | 99 comments I could not have believed I had misread it, but you are right it was Rhonda. Kimberton was her brother and it was Rhonda that saw him on the street. I guess as I read the life book the stories ran together for me. Sorry :(

message 22: by Sharon A. (new)

Sharon A. (sharona826) | 172 comments I read this book yesterday, and I could not put it down. I found it disturbing as well, but I wanted to see how Precious was able to break away from her mom. I was touched by how she felt about both of her children, and how she wanted to be able to raise both of them.

I do not feel anything for her mother. While I'm sure she was probably also an abuse survivor, she allowed her boyfriend to rape her very young child while she was right there. As a mother I find that completely abhorrent, reprehensible and unforgivable. (I can't think of anymore words!)

I cheered when Precious met Ms. Rain and made friends in class. I loved watching the progression of her writing ability, and the raw feelings she was able to put onto paper with just a few words really touched me.

I even loved how the theme of "push" played through the book. From "pushing" her children out of her womb, to "pushing" herself to keep going, keep writing, keep working.

I'm going to pretend in my mind that even with the HIV diagnosis, that she had a long and happy ending!

message 23: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 1271 comments Sharon A. wrote: "I'm going to pretend in my mind that even with the HIV diagnosis, that she had a long and happy ending!..."
Oh! I thought that too!

message 24: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments Here is my next discussion question...
If you could write the ending for the would you conclude Precious's story?

message 25: by Julie (new)

Julie (scrapsofhistory) I read this book within a couple of hours. It was a story that I feel is happening to many other young girls and boys but they are too afraid to speak up. I teach high school and I faced my classes today with a whole new outlook. I just kept wondering if so many of them act the way they do because of abuse that is happening at home. My husband is not a reader so I told him we will be renting Prescious when it comes out on DVD.

I have to say that if you didn't finish the book please go back and try again. It does get better and you do see a wonderful turn about by a remarkable woman.

message 26: by Sharon A. (last edited Feb 23, 2010 09:10AM) (new)

Sharon A. (sharona826) | 172 comments Julie wrote: "Here is my next discussion question...
If you could write the ending for the would you conclude Precious's story?"

Julie, I wouldn't change a thing about the ending. I don't think this is the kind of book that can be wrapped up with a tidy epilogue. I like that it's left to my imagination.

I want to bring up one of the most (to me) disturbing parts of this book, but I don't want to offend anyone, so please accept my apologies in advance, especially for those who didn't finish the book.

I think I was most disturbed by Precious' sexual arousal during the incest. I've read other books containing incest and I'd never really considered this as a part of it before. While I was so proud of Precious for not confusing it for love (she always abhorred her father, no matter how her body reacted), I cannot imagine how it would affect her ability to have a normal sexual relationship later in life. My heart just ached for this child.

message 27: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
I think I like the fact that the book left the ending open. I know there is no fairy tale ending for a situation like this, and that with the HIV diagnosis, and a special needs daughter, and with her lack of education, there is no way this is going to be a "happy every after" ending. But the strength she showed with the horrors that her life had dealt her are what I took away, and I just hope she continued to be as strong, no matter what her future was.

Sharon, I also was very distubed by the sexual arousal during the incest, and it was something I had never considered before. But I am sure it was probably a natural response for her body, especially as she got older and more time went by, and it seemed her father wanted her to have orgasms. But I would imagine that a situation like this would really mess a person up emotionally for any future relationships. Plus the fact that he gave her HIV. Nothing was ever going to be "normal" for Precious. What makes my heart ache is to realize that while this was a fictional story, there are real children all over the world who have things like this happen to them every day.

message 28: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) Julie, Add me to the camp of "I wouldn't change a thing." If this book had wrapped up in a pretty bow, it wouldn't be Push anymore. It would be a version of "The Lovely Bones" or something. That was a good book in its own right, but it certainly glossed over the harsh reality of childhood sexual abuse.

OTOH, to extend it, I would hope Precious continued to get help when she needed it medically & psychologically so she could have a fulfilling life and do everything she wanted without paying even more dearly for other people's sins. I guess I'd like to imagine her in a loving and caring relationship and as a forty-something woman with a purpose & some unconditional love in her life, no matter her HIV status or where she came from. I'd like to believe that though her parents dropped her, she got "caught" in time.

message 29: by Ella (last edited Feb 23, 2010 04:13PM) (new)

Ella (ellamc) Sheila & Sharon wrote about sexual arousal during incest...

Shiela & Sharon, It's not only a normal bodily reaction to experience a pleasurable response to any type of sexual stimulation, it's much much more common than ever discussed in both children & adult victims. I don't want to get graphic, so I won't continue in the physical realm, but what is truly amazing is Precious' ability to "talk" about it in her thoughts -- not to be in complete denial. This is one of the most disturbing parts of childhood sexual abuse for survivors, often, and it contributes to the shame in so many ways, which -- as you both said -- directly leads to serious complications with relationships in adulthood, both sexual and non-sexual.

She confronts this at such a young age, so directly, and I think she has a better chance at avoiding the pitfalls than so many do. It was one of the things that stood out to me as rather fictional, actually. It was real, but most kids can't cope with that reality until later, with help, in therapy, away from the abuse and in a safe place. Even then, the shame is unimaginable.

There is a book about incest/CSA called "Soul Murder" (most recent version I know of is Soul Murder Revisited: Thoughts about Therapy, Hate, Love, and Memory.) I've always found that title really compelling. It is, in so many ways, the murder of the soul to take away a child's trust in everything that should be sacred: from the people who are supposed to protect you actually abusing you, to being unable to trust your own body to react the way your mind feels. It's not "theft" or just something you can grow up & be untouched by, no matter how many survivors wish that to be so. It is the total annihilation of basic trust that what is real is real, that my body is part of me, and that people are not out to get me no matter what they act like, etc.

One of my favorite things about Precious is her ability to see, so early -- before getting any help at all, that *she* didn't do anything wrong. Sitting in the office on that first day, she thinks it, and it is an indicator of how spunky and strong she truly is, no matter how invisible the world would like to make her.

Most kids are not as clear as Precious is that they didn't do something wrong, and pedophiles are very good at convincing children that they have caused this to happen. Another unfortunate fact is that b/c of this shame/guilt, a huge unknown percentage of childhood victims never get help. They often resort to drugs and other forms of self harm to cope with the shame. Not everyone is as "lucky" as Precious to be so obviously a victim. Without the pregnancy, I imagine she would have continued to be passed over and up -- straight out of school still feeling as invisible as she does on page one. This, all too often, is what happens. Imagine the cost to our world, losing all of these vibrant, talented young men and women to some monster's most base urges, and it becomes almost too overwhelming to bear. I guess that's why, unless we're faced with this in our own lives or lives of those we care for, most people would like to believe it's much more rare than it really is.

message 30: by Renee (new)

Renee (reneebergeron) Ella - I could not have said that any better. You are so right about how CSA affects victims.

I think this is what is so arresting about this book....the world of child sexual abuse is a very closed world. Surviviros rarely let outsiders in their mind and reveal everything the way Precious does.

message 31: by Holli (new)

Holli I just finished this compelling book today and I loved how real and raw it was. This is what a lot of people in this world face every day... and I think Sapphire was really able to let us experience it with her powerful voice as firsthand as she could. I was very connected to Precious and I wanted her to succeed so badly... to push on and make something of herself. To rise above everything that was pushing her down and to win.

To answer Julie's questions: the cycle of abuse is shown through her father abusing her mother her parents abusing her and she ends it by making a choice not to continue it with her own child. She realizes that its not right and she knows in her heart what she wants and her strength and conviction allow her to pursue that. I wouldn't change anything of the ending. I loved that it left us wondering but it left us knowing that we believe in Precious enough to do the right thing for herself and for her children. I do hope that eventually she was able to get her other child back.... and I do hope she continued her therapy and her education.

Ella your post up there was magnificent.... actually all of you have left comments in this discussion that I identified with or that made me see another side to it. Child abuse and the other "touchy" subjects that Sapphire addresses in this novel are very real things that go on every day in this world..... and as awful as that is its something that needs to be faced and talked about. I'm glad she chose to do that and although this book made me sad for Precious I was also filled with hope and pride for her and what she achieved. Great book.

message 32: by Renee (new)

Renee (reneebergeron) In answer to whether I could change the ending or not...I think not. I think the ending was the ending the way real life is...not just a neat tidy ending, but rather, the end of one chapter and the start of the next. We know where Precious came from and where she is going, in terms of her education, literacy, determination. There is no need for an "ending" in the traditional sense. Sometimes being a victim means becoming a survivor, but there is never an off button. That mentality, or those flashbacks, they never really go away.

What was truly powerful about this book, and maybe some of what Sapphire intended, was that by being so intense and raw about it's subject, and yet, making us love Precious, it allows groups like us, women, the opportunity to have these types of discussions. How many of us, without personal knowledge, would know what it is like to be inside the head of an abuse victim? Would we know that thier minds scream against thier bodies, because they can't control a physiological response, and yet, they know they would do anything for the abuse to stop? I love a book that can transcend the ordinary, and make one aware of an etirely different realm.

I have faith in Precious, and maybe that is the best ending of all - giving Precious our faith.

One must much of this did Sapphire have personal experience in?

message 33: by Holli (new)

Holli I wondered the same thing Renee... about how much of this was Sapphire's story as well. And I agree with your second paragraph up there in that this book totally let us get inside the head of Precious and we could live through all of the pain with her. Sapphire didn't just tell us a story... she allowed us to become the story and that's amazing.

I'm still thinking about this book. Very moving and powerful.

message 34: by Sharon A. (last edited Feb 24, 2010 06:58AM) (new)

Sharon A. (sharona826) | 172 comments One of my favorite things about Precious is her ability to see, so early -- before getting any help at all, that *she* didn't do anything wrong. Sitting in the office on that first day, she thinks it, and it is an indicator of how spunky and strong she truly is, no matter how invisible the world would like to make her.

Ella, I couldn't have put it better myself.

message 35: by Gaijinmama (last edited Feb 28, 2010 11:35PM) (new)

Gaijinmama | 24 comments Well, I did read and finish the book and I got sidetracked but I'd just like to jump in on the end of this thread if you all don't mind!
Precious's experience growing up was truly horrific. I tell ya, give me vampires, werewolves and ghosts any day because what humans actually do to each other, even sometimes to their own children, is worse than any fictional monster. I generally don't read books or see movies about girls or women being violated because I just can't take more images of that in my mind. There is too much abuse and violation of women in the world already.

What kept me reading was Precious' voice, her strength, her poetic soul, and sense of humor in spite of what happened to her. I agree with those who have said that what helps her transcend her experience is that she doesn't deny what happened to her. I don't have my copy anymore but right near the beginning she says something like, "Why should I hide what they did to me? I was a child, I didn't do anything wrong. They did this to me." and she is so right. She's angry, she's scared and confused, but she is always brutally honest. That's what saves her.

Another thing that helps her improve her life is the role of teachers who care about her and put in extra effort to help her. Even the first teacher (can't remember the name but Precious was really hostile to her...called her a white B****) who sent Precious to the alternative school took the trouble to get her paperwork sent over there, otherwise Precious might have walked out and not gone back. I think teachers work hard, often for low pay and in challenging conditions. There are lousy ones out there but they often do go the extra mile for their students, and try to make a difference.

I'm a teacher myself and while I'm not anywhere near as amazing as Miss Rain, I always feel a big sense of responsibility because, let's be honest, we remember our teachers, good and bad, for the rest of our lives!
I think the author, Sapphire, taught in alternative schools herself and probably met students who had been through similar experiences to Precious.

Great read. Upsetting, but really brilliant.
thanks for the incentive to finally get it off my shelf!

message 36: by Holli (new)

Holli Great post Gaijinmama.... you really summed up a lot of what I thought while reading the book....

message 37: by Gaijinmama (new)

Gaijinmama | 24 comments Thanks Holli. The book really made an impression on me.

message 38: by Kristie (new)

Kristie (spedkristie) | 385 comments I just bought the movie and I just put it in.....will let you all know how it is!

message 39: by Kristie (new)

Kristie (spedkristie) | 385 comments movie was very true to the book......very powerful and emotional. Mo'nique deserved her oscar!

message 40: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Interesting news story about the author, the book, and the movie. (link)

message 41: by Kristie (new)

Kristie (spedkristie) | 385 comments Sapphire is speaking at the Philly Book Festival in April!

message 42: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) KrIsTiE fAyE wrote: "Sapphire is speaking at the Philly Book Festival in April!"

Oh my goodness. I'm coming! I've wanted her to sign my first edition forever! I'm glad she's finally getting her due (despite needing a movie to do so, I suppose.) Kristie, are you going to be there? Maybe we could have a cup of coffee & meet each other!

message 43: by Kristie (new)

Kristie (spedkristie) | 385 comments Cool.....I wasn't sure about seeing Sapphire because Saturday Harlan Coben is speaking and I totally want to see him....He's one of my faves!!!! but I was seriously thinking about it !!!

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